There are many small things that I miss about being healthy, but there are only two BIG things that I really miss. Yikes, I already messed that up – I am trying to not think or write the phrase “when I was healthy”. I am healthy; there are just a lot of things I have to avoid to stay healthy. The big things I have to avoid are work and travel. I miss work, as in please let me leave this house and go solve somebody else’s problems for a few hours so that I can feel useful. I miss travel, but not the vacation kind. I miss travel for the change, the stimulation, and the unexpected. I was feeling strong in 2012 and so I overdid the travel, five times in four months. That much exposure put me off track enough that my plans to get back to work, the other big thing I miss, have been put on the back burner, maybe permanently. So that didn’t work out well. I learned my lesson the hard way and we are trying to approach travel differently now, including family vacations in Percy, our pop up camper. Sometimes though, I have to get on a plane and go somewhere. I try to avoid it since the airport, airplane, hotel, rental car and restaurants have a lot of potential air quality I can’t control. Last fall I had to travel to Maryland to see my EI physician Dr. Ziem. Next week I will travel to Nashville to see my niece, who is graduating this spring from Vanderbilt University with a music degree, in her senior recital. Reality check, I don’t HAVE to go to Nashville. But she’s been there four years and I have not made any of her other performances. She plays the double bass and sings jazz and is just all around kick-ass amazing and I have not personally witnessed or supported her hard work. So yes, actually I do have to go. Here are the tricks I will employ on this chemically challenging travel. Firstly, I will use the ubiquitous carbon filter mask which get I from Sandra DenBraber, who still makes them old school by hand. I’ve used these for years; they are functional, durable and look like hospital masks so they are not as obtrusive (read scary to children) as some others. It may be donned in the airport, airplane, or rental car. Next, I will use a rental car company that lets me pick my own car, Emerald Club through National lets me do that. Yep, I walk out there and smell all my options, choosing the lest offensive. I will also bring my automotive car filter for the rental car because even the least offensive rental car will still be laden with VOCs from the cleaning products and stain resistant treatment all companies use.
Lodging is the trickiest part and the one I have the least solutions for. The only consistently reliable accommodation directory I know that is compiled specifically for the sensitive traveller is Safer Travel Directory. If anybody knows of another directory that is truly updated and accurate I would be very interested – please share! If you do an online search with your destination and some keywords like MCS, green, organic you will at least get some hotels that are used to customers calling with advanced questions about fragrance free cleaning products, detergent, smoke free rooms, natural fiber linens, etc. In the meantime, I make do by looking for a hotel with a kitchen and with windows that open. Marriott’s Residence Inn has worked for me in the past and I am hoping will do so again this trip. As soon as I walk in the hotel room, I will turn the A/C to fan only, open as many windows as I can, and then leave the room. I will go for a walk, which is necessary after planes, airports and rental cars. Hopefully when I get back to the hotel room, it will be usable. I will bring my own pillowcase at least, if not my own set of sheets. This time around, I will also be trying my car air filter as a bedside air filter in the hotel room. We just got an adapter that should let me connect the car filter’s 12V plug into a regular outlet. I will also do an advanced reconnaissance of grocery stores near my hotel to stock my kitchen and minimize both restaurant exposure and tempting foods that are not on my safe diet.
I will, regardless of all my precautions and plans, return home feeling less healthy than when I left. I will be worn down, in pain, and I expect, will have at least one new unexplained symptom. Previous trips’ souvenirs include open sores on my scalp, swollen finger joints, and vision loss. Like I said at the beginning; I will enjoy the change of a new environment, I will be stimulated by my niece’s musical genius, and I will bring home an unexpected symptom. The joys of travel!